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An end to the endless cycle?

Friday, June 12, 2009 by Dave Winer.

A picture named car.gifAn interesting discussion over on FriendFeed, spawned from a series of comments I made yesterday on Twitter about the cyclic relationship between the tech press, the tech industry and the users. I think this time around the loop things may change for good, the cycle may just break. Permalink to this paragraph

John Blossom: "Journalists stay in business by cultivating relationships with sources - that's a pretty universal fact, not just with the tech press. It's always a dance to avoid getting too close and cushy for the sake of something less than pure motivations. In today's environment, though, the multiplicity of online channels in any market segment in conjunction with purely social media buffers us against this kind of corruption. As soon as someone spoons too lovingly for something they get outed." Permalink to this paragraph

My response: "John, that's why blogging took off -- because the tech press was so rotten with the vendors, they'd never say anything negative about them. So when you wanted to find out if a product really worked, you'd do what we do now -- listen to other users. Amazon built an empire on that idea. Of all the Web 2.0 companies they may be the only ones who get that the press doesn't control what users know anymore, that the users are getting it for themselves." Permalink to this paragraph

The cycle of users taking control of the tech industry and press goes back a long, long way. My first experience was in the late 70s, as a grad student in comp sci. I'd go to the student library, a quiet reading room where they left copies of the computer industry publications. I remember leafing through them thinking that this stuff seemed overly complex and irrelevant. When my generation went out into the world, we started over. That's the cycle. Permalink to this paragraph

It has always seemed possible to me that a company could make the transition from one generation to the next without getting caught in the gears, but I've yet to see it happen. Maybe the closest is Apple, but they went through hell between the advent of the web which overturned a lot of their assumptions and the rebirth of Apple under Steve Jobs 2.0. Permalink to this paragraph

These days the press can reform itself very quickly because the printing presses are very cheap. It cost News.com millions of dollars to start up in the 90s. TechCrunch started four years ago with nothing but a Wordpress installation and an entrepreneur with a little extra time. So when the press gets too cozy with industry, the next layer of the press forms in an instant. When users want to know if the products really work they just inform each other.  Permalink to this paragraph

BTW, much of the press now calls themselves bloggers. They can do that, no one owns the trademark. But that doesn't mean they are immune to being routed around by bloggers. It's as if you changed the name of "rain" to "sunshine." You'd still need an umbrella. A picture named sidesmiley.gif Permalink to this paragraph

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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.


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